Victory: Polluting Car Wash on Leyton Marsh Refused Permission!

We are delighted to announce that Waltham Forest Council has refused to give permission for the car wash on Leyton Marsh, constructed prior to planning approval, due to its contravention of local policy and the fact it is an inappropriate development on Metropolitan Open Land.

The cordoned off car wash at Leyton Marshes car park, on Lea Bridge Road.

The cordoned off car wash at Leyton Marshes car park, on Lea Bridge Road.

Save Lea Marshes have conducted a long-running campaign against the car wash, for which an inaccurate planning application was lodged, the Park Act was ignored and M.O.L. policy was contravened.

The car wash was constructed and became operational back in June, prior to planning permission being obtained. We wrote to the Chief Executive of the Lee Valley Regional Park Authority, Shaun Dawson, pointing out that in authorising the car wash, the Authority was acting outside its powers as set out in section 12 of the Park Act  – to operate the park as a place for the “occupation of leisure, recreation, sport, games or amusements and similar activities… the provision of nature reserves and provision and enjoyment of entertainments of any kind.”

Moreover, Section 13 of the Park Act specifically states “nothing in this section shall empower the Authority[…]To carry on the business of maintaining [or repairing] motor vehicles.”

Dawson wrote back to us defending the creation of the car wash facility as not constituting ‘car maintenance’. However, we did not give up on resisting this unsightly and polluting business, adjacent to the river Lea, which is one of the most polluted rivers in Britain, already polluted by oil and detergent run off from roads and car parks. We spoke at the LVRPA Annual General Meeting on 6th July making many arguments against its approval.

SLM Protest at the car wash

SLM Protest at the car wash

After our delegation at the annual Authority meeting in July, we then received news that the LVRPA had responded to our complaints by informing us that their Leisure Trust had “requested that the operator cease trading until such time planning permission is obtained.” We asked people to write to Waltham Forest Council and object to the planning application. We would like to thank everyone who did so.

The Council decided the application under delegated powers, stating that the car wash “constitutes inappropriate development on Metropolitan Open Land and would have an adverse impact upon the visual amenities and openness within the designated Metropolitan Open Land.” They also stated its contravention to several local policies, namely the Waltham Forest Local Plan – Core Strategy (2012) and policies DM12 and DM24 of Development Management Policies (2013).

Due to its proximity to the Essex Wharf residential development and the hours of use of the operation, the Council also concluded that it “would result in noise disturbance to the nearby residential occupiers.”

Since the decision cites the site’s location within Metropolitan Open Land and the effect of pollution on local residents as grounds for  refusal, this is a welcome boost to our campaign against the schools being built on Metropolitan Open Land opposite.

Well done to all those involved in any way with this campaign!


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Our Campaigns Work – Be Part of Them!

It is certainly a difficult political environment for protecting open public spaces and it would be easy to become overwhelmed or despondent about the level of encroachment and development of our protected land in the capital.

However, we would like to share with you some of our campaign victories since we formed in 2012.

No.1 Leyton Marsh

After the 2012 debacle of the ‘temporary’ basketball courts, Leyton Marsh was suffering the semi-permanent effects of a botched restoration. Save Leyton Marsh continued our campaign, putting pressure on the Lee Valley Regional Park Authority to demand Leyton Marsh was put back as promised by the Olympic Delivery Authority.

Although, the reinstatement efforts were far from ideal, we made sure that something was done about the appalling drainage and that a new surface was laid on Sandy Path.


With then Assembly Member Jenny Jones on waterlogged Leyton Marsh


No. 2 Hackney Marshes

The sports pitches on Hackney Marshes were seriously damaged by the Radio 1 concert during the summer of 2012.

We successfully campaigned with local sports teams to prevent the use of Hackney Marshes for three private mega-events every summer which would have seen local residents fenced out of the area during the best time of the year for enjoying the outdoors.


Birbeck Orient wearing our custom T-shirts for the campaign



3. North Marsh

We launched a petition to demand that the proposed pavilion on Hackney Marshes was situated on the site of the old building, at North Marsh, rather than being located on presently green space in order for the Council to accommodate a 68 space car park. Our petition got hundreds of signatures and we successfully took Hackney Council to a public inquiry where we represented ourselves for 4 days against a professional barrister.

The footprint of the proposed pavilion measured out by SLM members

The footprint of the proposed pavilion measured out by SLM members


No.4 East Marsh

Although as a result of the Planning Inquiry, the Inspector did not demand that the pavilion was re-designed in order to protect common land, she did find in favour of our arguments at East Marsh, where there was an unlawfully constructed car park. She ordered that it be removed.

We requested that the car park would be created into a biodiverse habitat and worked with Hackney Council and Hackney Marshes Users Group to achieve this. Works to create this habitat are currently taking place at the car park site on East Marsh.

Dog rose

Dog rose

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Letter to GLA Representative Jeanette Arnold From CPRE London

Dear Jeanette,

We, as well as local residents in Waltham Forest, are extremely concerned about the Thames Water Depot site in Waltham Forest where free school providers are already advertising places – despite no planning permission being sought or approved – on a piece of land which is part of the Lee Valley Regional Park and Metropolitan Open Land (with the same level of protection as Green Belt) and as such a strategically important asset for all of London. MOL is becoming increasingly important to London as a strategic ‘green asset’ which contributes to air cooling, flood management etc, and is becoming more and more important as London densifies.


As you know, the Mayor has pledged to protect both Green Belt and Metropolitan Open Land and he will be required to consider whether he feels this is justifiable development.


We are particularly concerned that:


  • ‘Exceptional circumstances’ must be proven to exist to justify building on Metropolitan Open Land. We cannot see that demand for school places constitutes ‘exceptional circumstances’ when this is a generalised pressure across London. If we take that argument to its logical conclusion, all of London’s protected green spaces could be given over to schools.
  • Applications should be able to show that other alternative sites have been exhaustively considered. The free school providers were shown a number of sites in Waltham Forest, i.e. alternatives sites, and we fail to understand how none of these could have been suitable, in particular in light of the fact that the site which they ‘prefer’ is a piece of a regional park and MOL. Presumably the free school providers have no interest in considering the downside of loss of Metropolitan Open Land to London as a whole – i.e. I can only assume this has not been considered in deliberations. But since this has all be behind closed doors we cannot tell. Perhaps you have more information?
  • The proposed free schools are not located in an area of need for the majority of Waltham Forest residents, according to local campaigners.


This case is part of a wider pattern of the Government’s Education Funding Agency acquiring protected land in London to put free schools on and we strongly object to their approach, which effectively bypasses local planning procedures by doing deals behind closed doors and effectively putting pressure on the council to approve a planning application.

Best regards

Alice Roberts

Green Spaces Campaigner

CPRE London

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Protect Metropolitan Open Land in Waltham Forest!

Below is a letter sent to the Mayor of London regarding the proposed loss of land in Waltham Forest. Contact him with your own views:


The current Thames depot site on Leyton Marshes

Dear Mayor of London and GLA Members,


I am writing on behalf of Save Lea Marshes, a community group that exists to protect open green space in the Lee Valley. I would like to ask you if you are aware of the proposals to enclose two large areas of protected Metropolitan Open Land in Waltham Forest?


I know that you have all made pledges to protect M.O.L. and Green Belt in London so I expect that you will regard the following proposals with concern and will therefore make objections to them on that basis:


Thames Water Depot site

The current Thames Water depot site on Lea Bridge Road, which is on the border of Hackney and Waltham Forest, has already been acquired by Lion Academy Trust for the creation of two new schools, without planning permission or prior consultation with the community.


As stated, the area is Metropolitan Open Land and should maintain its status as such. We have faced a massive loss of Metropolitan Open Land under the last Mayor of London and we should not lose any more.


The proposal to construct free schools is opposed in the local community. The schools will simply be the wrong type of schools in the wrong location. The proposed schools will be for Waltham Forest residents yet the site is in close proximity to more homes in Hackney. This means the majority of school attendees will travel via cars on an already badly congested road, worsening air pollution and dire congestion in this area.


The site is directly adjacent to sensitive biodiverse areas, including a nature and bird reserve in the Lee Valley. It borders the historic Victorian filter beds and the Waterworks Nature Reserve.


The Trust claims ‘Building the two schools is the only viable way in which the Depot site can be returned to a largely green and open space.’ This is patently untrue. Firstly, the site was bought by central government so there would be no need for it to be sold and re-purchased; ownership could be transferred if the political will was there. Furthermore, nature is wonderful at taking back land that humans have utilised. If the Thames Water hoardings were torn down and the works machinery removed, we would very soon have a large green open space teaming with wildlife, in light of its close proximity to wild areas, and it would cost very little.


This particular Academy Trust, which has no experience running secondary schools, has been involved in projects at extortionate costs to the public, such as Brook House primary free school in Tottenham, where £468,000 is paid to Legal and General Property (LGP), an investment fund, every single year for rent of the land. We would not even be losing MOL to a trustworthy cost effective provider of secondary education if the current plans were approved.


Current ‘consultations’ are insufficient as the acquisition for a school has already been decided and environmental impacts have been entirely disregarded. Suggestions made by the public including: the reinstatement of Black Path, public access to the river’s edge and a green bridge have been rejected outright by the Trust as ‘too challenging’.


Whilst a Community Use Agreement proposed as part of the planning application is welcome, it does not ensure that this huge area of Metropolitan Open Land is open to the public. Public access will be both limited and paid for; automatically excluding many people, which would not be the case if the area were re-opened to the public as green open space which could be easily achieved, as outlined above. 

Ive Farm
Planning Application: No. 163113

This is another large area of M.O.L. and a designated playing field in Waltham Forest, bordering the Lee Valley. Planning permission is sought by Waltham Forest Council to convert Ive Farm into synthetic football pitches; the plans are for fenced astro-turf surfaces and a car park (with an entrance via Orient Way) and two bridges for cars over the Dagenham Brook.


The scheme seems to originate with a serious mismanagement of an existing facility, the Score Centre, which would be demolished and its existing sports facilities lost to the community. It is not acceptable that the public should lose protected land due to neglect and mismanagement of existing facilities by the Council.


In a Cabinet Report Waltham Forest Council, who are applying to themselves for permission, have stated : ‘To deliver the scheme, planning applications will have to submitted for both sites. It is likely that the submission of the Ive Farm application maybe contentious given its status as Metropolitan Open Land and as a designated Playing Field. Whilst this is not envisaged to be a significant problem…‘ which reveals a deeply concerning disregard for upholding the protections afforded to the land.


The Planning Statement says that the “social [and economic benefits] outweigh any environmental concerns raised regarding the location”. This claim is not quantified with evidence and presents an unacceptable disregard for biodiversity and sustainability in planning.


The proposal includes a car park, which will encourage car use and increase air pollution, running counter to policies on sustainable transport. The bridges included in the plans to facilitate the movement of cars will also lead to the urbanisation of green space. The car park is proposed to be situated on currently biodiverse green space.


Moreover, the high flood risk of the area would entail huge costs and mitigation schemes, rendering the development ill-conceived in yet another respect, aside from the unacceptable loss of 5 hectares of open public land.


We look forward to hearing from you urgently in relation to these planning matters.


Kind Regards,

Caroline Day

On behalf of Save Lea Marshes.

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Open Letter to Developers of MOL at Thames Water Depot Site

This is an open letter from a local resident in response to the plans to develop the current Thames Depot site (pictured above) on Lea Bridge Road into two free schools:

1) Good schools are part of their local community but most struggle to have any significance in the lives of people who do not have children at the school. Whilst a Community Use Agreement as part of the planning application is welcome, it does not ensure that this huge area of Metropolitan Open Land is open to the public. Public access will be both limited and paid for; automatically excluding many people. I believe that one response to this point of view has been something along the lines of, ‘public access will be better once the schools have been built than it is at the moment’. And while that is certainly true, it is not, in my opinion, an adequate argument. While good schools should have aspirations for their pupils, I have aspirations for green space in Waltham Forest. Local people expected that they would have access to the Thames Water Depot once the project to replace the Victorian water mains was finished, and I still believe this is what many people want. If the London Borough of Waltham Forest do approve the building of the schools, then the very least we should receive in compensation for this loss of expectation, is full and free access to our Metropolitan Open Land.


2) You state that, ‘Building the two schools is the only viable way in which the Depot site can be returned to a largely green and open space.’ This is patently untrue. Firstly, the site was bought by central government so there would be no need for it to be sold and re-purchased; ownership could be transferred if the political will was there. Furthermore, nature is wonderful at taking back land that humans have tampered with. If the Thames Water hoardings were torn down and the works machinery removed, we would very soon have a large green open space teaming with wildlife and it would cost very little.


3) You state that, ‘the increase in green space will significantly enhance the green wildlife corridor running along the Lea Valley.’ Again I take issue with this statement. Playing fields have some value as a green corridor, but it is disingenuous to insinuate that the project will be beneficial to wildlife. Playing fields are not a return to nature, especially if pesticides and herbicides are used to keep them ‘in good nick’ and the area is flood lit on winter afternoons and in the evenings. I also understand that those involved with the project have limited understanding of the impact the development will have on the nature reserve that borders the site. I live next door to a school and school children are noisy; on sports days I have to close all my windows and wear earplugs because the noise from the tannoy is so loud. I chose to live where I live and I’m not complaining, but such noise will not be welcomed by the birds and other wildlife that live in the nature reserve and it would be absolutely tragic if the haven that has been created was destroyed as a result.


4) The presence of Giant Hogweed and Japanese Knotweed is a significant challenge. Can you commit to irradicating them without indiscriminately spraying weed killer, during the build and once the schools are in use? The most widely used pesticides in towns and cities are weed killers based on the active substance Glyphosate, which the World Health Organisation classified as a probable human carcinogen in 2015. Dozens of other pesticides have also been associated with illnesses, including leukemia and neurological and reproductive disorders. Pesticides also harm biodiversity. Populations of bees and other insect pollinators have fallen dramatically in recent years and there is growing scientific evidence that pesticides are playing a significant role.


5) At the previous consultation, local people asked for a number of things, including: the reinstatement of Black Path, public access to the river’s edge and a green bridge. You have dismissed all three ideas because, I surmise, they weren’t part of your original plans and would be challenging to implement, and you tell us that we don’t really need these things anyway. Many of us have lived in the area for a long time and have long-considered reasons behind the requests. Which brings me back to my first point. If you truly wanted to be at the heart of the local community you would work much harder to find a way to compromise.

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Ive Farm: Proposed Enclosure, Artifice and Cars

Mature trees

Mature trees at Ive Farm

Waltham Forest Council has submitted an application to itself for the redevelopment of Ive Farm sports ground. You can take part in the consultations this week and comment on the applications:

Planning permission is sought to convert Ive Farm into synthetic football pitches – the plans are for fenced astroturf surfaces and a car park (with entrance via Orient Way) and two bridges for cars over the Dagenham Brook:…/…

Planning Application No. 163113.

Informal drop-in consultations:

Tuesday 18th October 3pm – 5pm at St Josephs Infants, Marsh Lane E10 7BL

Wednesday 19th October 5pm – 7pm at Score Centre at The Score Centre, 100 Oliver Rd E10 5JY (opposite Orient Football)

Our position is no to artificial pitches and no to a car park. It is Metropolitan Open Land so should not be enclosed for private use.

As one SLM member who took part in one of the previous consultations said:  “Here we have an area of land, that has been closed to the public for a number of years, minding its own business, adjacent to the open spaces of the Lea Valley, which the powers that be want to turn to profitable use.  This will involve spending a large amount of money, cleaning it up, rendering large areas of it totally sterile, including a car park, but with a few token “ecological” areas dotted round the edge. To anyone how has been following the proposals for the development of the Thames Water site on Lea Bridge Road, these proposals for the Ive Farm site will look horribly familiar.”

Although the environmental study recommends: “to enhance the biodiversity value with…the inclusion of wildlife planting, a biodiverse green roof and provision of bird nesting and bat roosting opportunities”, the Planning Statement says that the “social [and economic benefits] outweigh any environmental concerns raised regarding the location.” The area proposed for the car park is currently a wild space. Astro-turf pitches are obviously the worst option for wildlife and have also been linked to cancer and sports injuries.

Please take time to feedback  to the Council the importance of the biodiversity of this 5 hectare naturally green space before it becomes green plastic, floodlit pitches.

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Hackney: Going Green or Giving the Green Light to Cars?


Anyone who has followed Save Lea Marshes in the last few years will be aware of our campaign against the planned cricket pavilion for Hackney Marshes, a design which involves building on green space in order to accommodate a large car park on North Marsh.

During our campaign, which led to a public inquiry, evidence was coming to light of the damaging effect of air pollution on Londoners, especially children. Exposure to air pollution stunts lung growth and even impairs children’s mental development. Car parks, we argued, make marsh users and sports players particularly vulnerable to air pollution since cars emit the most damaging pollution when engines are starting up. The new car park will be situated adjacent to one of the cricket pitches. Ironically, the fact that children will be playing on these pitches for the benefit of their health was one of the main arguments for the creation of the new pavilion.

Our evidence was largely ignored, both at the inquiry and by Hackney Council, although it was stated at the inquiry that one of the supposed advantages of siting the pavilion out in the middle of the marshes was that it would shield “users” from pollution from the car park.  Clearly whoever wrote that thought that the only “users” who matter are those playing games out in the middle of the marshes – not those playing in other areas or walking round the edge by the River Lea Navigation! The significance of the arguments we made about moving beyond private car use and protecting cleaner air zones, such as the marshes, for the health of all residents are underscored in the light of new evidence.

It has emerged that in addition to the high death toll from air pollution in the capital, estimated at 9,500 deaths per year, toxic air pollution has now been linked to brain abnormalities. A newly published study reveals that toxic nano particles from air pollution have been discovered in ‘abundant quantities’ in human brains. The detection of the particles, in brain tissue from a sample of 37 people, is alarming because recent research has suggested links between these magnetite particles and Alzheimer’s disease, while air pollution has been shown to significantly increase the risk of the disease.

Whilst we were debating with sports users and the Council over the issue of the pavilion, it was said that we did not fully appreciate the benefits of sport to health. We do. However there is now no doubting the seriousness of air pollution and the urgency to act to protect public health.

Hackney Council had the perfect opportunity to design a sports facility which encouraged sustainable transport use and lead the way on reducing air pollution in the borough. Instead it opted to create an enlarged car park, sacrificing green space in the process and encouraging private car use. Transport for London made its permission dependent on the reduction of the number of parking spaces over time,  a condition announced and promised by the Council at the inquiry. This condition has recently been scrapped at the Council’s bidding. Whilst we are appealing this move, experience has taught us that conditions crafted to make a proposal more environmentally friendly can often be sacrificed with little difficulty or oversight.

The Council needs to demonstrate a genuine commitment to sustainable transport and environmentally sound decision-making for the marshes, as for the borough. The increase in car parks and buildings on green spaces is halting progress towards a ‘Greener Hackney’.

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